When examining the relationship between social media and SEO, you’ll hear industry experts discuss correlation vs. causation. Does social media have a direct effect on organic search engine rankings, or are there simply some connections? You’ll find good arguments from both sides, but it’s hard to ignore some of the intersections that all but prove causation.
Here’s what we do know: Google pays attention to social interactions such as likes, retweets, shares, and even +1’s. How much emphasis they place on these interactions and signals, we may never know. However, it’s something that Google monitors and takes into account.
Google and Twitter.
The best way to understand the Internet is to picture it as a massive library that’s constantly expanding. There are millions of books and periodicals but no central filing system. The library continues to get bigger and bigger, which makes it increasingly difficult to find what you’re looking for. That’s where Google comes into play.
Google serves as an independent filing system for this expanding library of virtual content. It sends out thousands of crawlers to find information, tag it, and create an index that allows users to quickly and effortlessly find the information they’re seeking. Well, Twitter actually helps Google to discover new content. Tweets can be displayed in search results and allow for timelier consumption of relevant information.
Social media may be the golden ticket to improved SEO strategy everyone is looking for. New tools now turn social signals into quantifiable data brands can analyze to fine tune and tweak future SEO and social efforts.
According to Searchmetrics, “Since search engines now calculate social relevance and performance across the web, this information empowers your organization to make meaningful adjustments to its social strategies.”
Indirect link building.
Link building will always be an important aspect of SEO, and social media can indirectly lead to links. Let’s say that you own a sporting goods company and regularly post content to your website’s blog. Because you have a healthy social following on Facebook, one of your blogs gets shared 25 times. It just so happens that one of those shares is seen by a woman who is the content manager for a popular industry website. She’s currently writing an article about a related issue and decides to use your article as a source. She may never have found your content if it weren’t for social media.
Now, multiply that instance over dozens of different posts, thousands of shares over many months, and you can see just how valuable social media can be for link building. While a share, like or retweet may not directly boost the overall ranking of an URL, it can have an indirect benefit that’s just as important.
Social as a referral partner.
Social media can be a huge referral partner for some businesses. If you have an active social following and frequently share blog posts and other content, you’ll naturally attract site traffic. The search engines don’t know that traffic is coming from Facebook or Twitter, but they do know that your site is seeing an uptick in traffic that they like. This naturally enhances your authority and causes your pages to gravitate closer and closer to a page-one ranking.
Social profile rankings.
Let’s do a little case study. Run a Google search for any major brand or company, such as Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, or ESPN. In almost every case, a brand’s Facebook profile will be one of the top three or four search results. Google values social networks and naturally pushes these profiles to the top. Profiles on other sites, such as YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, will also show up for some brands.
To have more control over what shows up on the first page of Google (this is known as online reputation management), claim your social profiles and make sure they properly represent your brand. This is one aspect of your SEO campaign that you can control.
Don’t separate social and SEO.
It’s easy to look at social media and SEO as two distinct entities, but it’s better to see them in the same light. The relationship between these aspects of Internet marketing may not always be definitive, but it’s clear that a relationship does exist. Most of the time, that relationship is indirect, but don’t get caught up in a debate over causation vs. correlation. By paying attention to social media and leveraging the features it offers, you’ll naturally see your SEO efforts improve over time.